Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Campanula incurva - plant portrait

One of my favorite new plants this year was Campanula incurva.- - a rock garden bellflower with large blooms, almost as big as Canterbury bells (Campanula medium), but flowering on very short stalks and all the bloms facing up, so they look good from a distance or seen close-by.

Campanula incurva

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Lespedeza thunbergii

In late September this is the shrub that blooms most profusely at Roche Fleurie.  The common name is Bush Clover. Being of the pea family (Fabaceae), the flowers look very much like some clover flowers, but the plant forms a shrub, hence Bush Clover.

Bush Clover

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Four-legged Johny Appleseed

September is associated with the ripening of wild apples that surround the garden. As regular readers will already know, lots of apples means that our local bear is often around.

Very few of these apple trees were planted by humans. The majority comes from apple seeds scattered by raccoons and, especially, bears.

Some of the "wild" apples

Saturday, September 3, 2016

The Setting

This is a gardening blog, so the vast majority of the posts have to do with the garden, its plants or its design.

For a change, it might be useful to talk about the location of the garden in order to place it in its context and give you an idea of its surroundings.

The beach and marina in the village of Lion's Head in the Bruce Peninsula

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Late August

Late August is the time when there are still some blooms, but they look rather tired. Somehow, even flowers that have just opened seem tired.

More probably, it is the gardener's outlook which is defective. Even if the days are still warm, they are getting shorter and shorter.

Here are some of the things that are blooming now at Roche Fleurie.

Hellenium autumnale

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Tolerated Weeds

One of our shortcomings as a gardeners is to be too inclined to leave attractive weeds to prosper. Some years we am more strict, others more lax, depending on the situation.

This year, for instance, many of the vegetables that were planted are not going to produce much. Many had to be replanted several times after having been dug up by raccoons early in the season.

Only one cucumber plant and one zucchini plant eventually grew.   Only a quarter of the pole beans planted survived the raccoon onslaught. They are growing and we have started eating them.

However they are being invaded by Morning Glories which we decided to let grow. There might not be many beans, but at least the poles are not naked.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

A Week in the Shuswap and the Okanagan

The Shuswap is a lake and area of British Columbia where we have just spent a holiday week.

The Thompson river in the Shuswap

Friday, August 5, 2016

In Praise of Blackcurrants

It has been an excellent year for blackcurrants (Ribes nigrum). In fact we had a bumper crop.

Some years there will be a late frost when the blackcurrant bushes are in bloom, which reduces yield. But not this year.

This means that we have been very busy picking berries and turning them into desserts, jam and, most popular of all in this household, crème de cassis, the delicious blackcurrant liqueur.


Sunday, July 31, 2016

A True Dry Shade Lover

In this garden, the regular foxglove (Digitalis purpurea) does not do well. It is, in fact, very difficult to grow, mostly because the soil is basic and too dry.

At the moment of writing this, at the end of July, it has been very sunny for the last two months, with perhaps three rain showers in all, which means that many plants only survive provided they are watered every day.

However the rusty foxglove (Digitalis ferruginae) is blooming generously, even if it has never been watered except for the little rain we got.

Digitalis ferruginae - the rusty foxglove, an easy xeric plant

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Hardy Annuals

Most years I grow a fair number of hardy annuals. The point about hardy annuals is that they can be started from seed directly in the garden where they are going to grow.  They often bloom for a very long time and are inexpensive.

In fact after a few years of growing them, most hardy annual plants seed themselves or produce a lot of seeds that can be saved and replanted the next year.

Love-in-a-mist (Nigella damascena) - on the right growing with Dianthus deltoides

Monday, July 18, 2016

Summer Peak

Many gardening bloggers are talking about the great abundance of plants in bloom in the garden at this time of the year.  Here are some of the plants that have been blooming here recently.

Since early June we have had a lot of sunshine, but not a lot of heat, and the nights have been actually cold. This cooler weather is, no doubt, the reason why a week ago we still had a few peonies!

Sunday, July 10, 2016

A Tale of Two Gardens

It  is not very common to have two keen gardeners living next door to each other, but it is even more unusual is to have these two gardeners share a garden!

This post is about two gardeners that have ignored the property line that separates their respective lots and created a single garden right over it.

Part of the shared garden

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

A Love Story

This post is about the misadventures of two rabbits in love. Destiny tore them apart but, do not worry, it ends well.

They are reunited at the end of the story and presumably are still happy together.

One of the two

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Garden Open

In my last post, I talked about an excursion our local gardening club made. This last week, members of the same club were opening their gardens to their fellow gardeners.

In a month which has been very sunny and warm, the day it was our turn to open, rain was threatening, and it was just about 10 degrees Celsius.

However this did not stop people from visiting, and we had a very good day.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

A Visit to a Nursery

Grange Hollow is the name of a local nursery. One of the very best, if not the best.

Recently, our local garden club organized a bus trip to nurseries, including Grange Hollow. We had perfect weather, a bright and sunny day with a cooling breeze.

Sales area of Grange Hollow Nursery

Monday, June 20, 2016

Along the Shores of Lake Huron

I have had previous posts about the wild flowers along Lake Huron, but usually showing flowers that bloom later in the season.

Here are photos of some of the most attractive plants that were in bloom a few days ago. Because of the abundance of extreme habitats, our area has a high number of rare species and is considered one of the more botanically significant parts of Ontario.

Iris versicolor which is usually found in ditches

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Rock Garden Plants

We do not have a rock garden per se. However, having been part of various rock garden societies for many years, we have accumulated some rock garden plants (and killed many  more). Here are some of the smaller plants that have bloomed for us this spring. Many of them were grown from seed.

Semiaquilegia ecalcarata

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Plant Portrait - Chrysanthemum argenteum

This plant has nothing to do with what we think of as chrysanthemum.  It is rather one of those plants whose great virtue is to go unnoticed most of the time. You don't see it, but you do not miss all its neighbours, which are made more prominent by the supporting role  this unassuming foliage plant provides.

You will notice that it looks a fair bit like the ubiquitous "Dusty Miller" (Senecio cineraria). Both are grown for their foliage, their insignificant blooms being ignored or removed. However, contrary to Dusty Miller, the main advantage of Chrysanthemum argenteum, is that it is perennial!

Tanacetum argenteum through Allium karataviense
Chrysanthemum argenteum through Allium karataviense

Sunday, June 5, 2016

An Abandoned Garden

Having visited a very interesting nursery (Fiddlehead Nursery in Kimberly, Ontario, which specializes in rare perennial vegetables) we were driving back on a rural road, when we saw a sign for a nature reserve with a water falls. We stopped to look at it and were pleased to discover that an unadvertised premium came with the water falls: an abandoned garden.

I do not know how long it has been abandoned, but some of the plants have had time to run amuck. The most spectacular was Dame's Rocket (Hesperis matronalis) which covered a few acres and was a sight to see. You can just imagine the heady perfume such a lot of blooms produce.  I had not realized Dame's Rocket could be so invasive.

Like William Kent, Dame's Rocket leaped the fence, and saw that all nature was a garden

Monday, May 30, 2016

Dividing Primroses

There are many types of primroses from the simple cowslip to those with specific growing conditions, such as the "candelabra" that need constant moisture, or the auricula, another thing altogether.

I grow some of these, but this post is about the more "common" plants belonging to the  genus Primula.

Primula are deceptive as they give the impression of being rather sturdy plants, but they are not.

In Old Fashioned Flowers  Sacheverall Sitwell says:  "There could be no greater mistake than to imagine they are capable of looking after themselves."

Here is how I take care of the primulas pictured below. I entitled this post "Dividing Primroses" because the big job is to divide them in spring.

A assembly of primulas

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Love in the Garden

According to Tennyson, "In the spring, a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love".  It is not just young men, there are also the birds, of course.  But what is most noticeable in this garden is snakes. Why each spring they choose the garden for the pursuit of love, I am not quite sure. I expect they like the warmth of the stones bordering the rill.

Anyhow, at this time of the year, one morning, like this morning, you take your first walk in  the garden, and they are all here ready for snake love fest.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Forest floor

Spring is the time for spectacular display in under story plants. Britain has its magnificent blue bells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta), and our southern neighbours have Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica).

In Ontario (as well as in Québec and all the northern states that have a climate similar to ours) the best known display is provided by Trillium grandiflorum.

Unfortunately Trillium grandiflorum is a favorite food of the white tail deer. The plant can be rather rare if there are many deer around.

Below is a sample of the millions of trilliums growing in the woodlot of my friend Gwynne.

Trillium grandiflorum

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Warm blankets

Two weeks or so ago I was complaining about rabbits, now my beef is with squirrels.

More specifically, the cheeky one you see below. He, or more likely she, has decided to make a nest in an old bird house just outside the garden.

That is not a problem, what is a problem though is what she has decided to line up this nest with.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Apple Tree Grafting

I wrote a post of grafting apple trees in 2014, and I thought I would revisit the topic hoping that some of you might have answers to a question I have.

Most of my graftings are done on a volunteer apple tree. There are lots of "wild" apple trees on the property and when the garden was made, one of these trees ended up in the middle of a bed.

We decided to keep it, although the apples were tough and not very tasty. I thought I would graft nicer varieties on it.

The oft grafted apple tree

Saturday, April 23, 2016

A Mr McGregor Morning

Our garden is rabbit proof.  So you will understand that it was a shock, first thing this morning, to encounter Peter (or perhaps it was his sister, Flopsy) leisurely hopping through the garden sampling this and that.

There were even two rabbits, one off the two not at all afraid of me.

They are actually snowshoe hares, and as you can see, Flopsy still has a lot of her white winter coat, but the summer brown is on its way.

Monday, April 18, 2016

What to keep and what not to keep

A week ago I was complaining about winter, forgetting that in our climate we normally go from winter to summer. A week ago there was a foot of snow, but the last 6 days or so have been sunny and warm, the swallows are back, so are the frogs and you can work outside in shirt sleeves.

Days that follow the final melting of snow are important weeding days. Because the ground is still wet and most plants are half comatose after the long winter, pulling a weed (or digging out a plant to move it) is much easier than it will be in just a few weeks. The weeding you take half an hour to do just after the winter, takes several hours at other times of the year.

Monday, April 11, 2016

An April to Remember

This was one of the mildest winters we have had for a few years. A week ago, many bulbs were up. Little did we know that winter had just been postponed to April.

I did a quick collage selecting a few views of the garden taken in previous years, trying to match them with current photos.

The first is perhaps the most telling as the picture of the left was taken on April 25th of a previous year and the one on the right on April 9th of this year.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Road flooded

Once again this year, the road is flooded. It is not because of the heavy rain we had last week, and it is not because of the snow (you will notice the snow - a few days ago it was all melted and spring bulbs were blooming or about to bloom, when winter decided to give us one more whack).

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Bounteous or Skimpy

Most plants reproduce and get bigger over time. Some increase very slowly, others increase faster. This post is about one of the latter.

I have  several medium size irises. Like all bearded irises, they make new shoots every year, and I divide them every three years or so.

However, not so with the purple one below which is twice as prolific as all the others I have.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Tall Campanula

Ideally we should know the names of all the plants we grow. Unfortunately, this is not how it works.

Labels go astray, you forget a name you were sure to remember, a plant was a gift and the giver did not know the name, plants are mislabeled, etc...

This post is about  tall campanula, one of our plants that you could say has "obscure origins".

Campanula (First year)

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Ruellia humilis - the perennial petunia

As its common name of “perennial petunia” implies, Ruellia humilis does look like an unimproved petunia, although it is no relation to the petunia since it belongs to the acanthus family. 

To me, the blooms are more attractive than those of the petunia, even if they are only about 1 ½ inches across. The colour is said to be lavender to light purple, but from the ones I have seen (all in cultivation - although it is a native North American plant), I would say the colour is pale blue.

Ruellia humilis
Ruellia humilis

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Plant Portrait – Wall Germander

Teucrium chamaedrys has been described as a garden workhorse. It certainly not demanding and very reliable. It is a low shrub rather than a perennial. Traditionally grown as a medicinal herb, nowadays it is valued both for its flowers and its evergreen foliage.

Teucrium chamaedrys “Summer Sunshine”

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Garden Job Priorities

You get a phone call from people you do not know who are in the area and would like to visit your garden.

You were not expecting visitors and the garden is not in the shape you would like it to be before you show it to unknown gardeners. You only have a few hours to make the garden presentable.

What do you consider the most important jobs you first have to tackle since you do not have time to do everything you would ideally want to do?

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Best Canadian Rose Breeder

In most regions of Canada, roses used to be humorously referred to as "annual shrubs".  There were a few cold tolerant roses among heirloom varieties (such as 'Stanwell Perpetual'), and especially among the Rugosas, but the vast majority of cultivars, including all hybrid teas, required gardeners to take drastic measures to protect them against the winter cold and these measures only worked sometimes.

Then came Felicitas Svejda (pronounced SWAYda) who was born in Vienna in 1920 and passed away on January 19, 2016. For 33 years, she worked at the Central Experimental Farm in Ottawa where she developed hardy shrubs, especially the "Explorer" series of roses which are now grown in many countries with cold winters.

Henry Kelsey, an Explorer rose

Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Cold Garden Micro-climates

We all know that within an area, growing conditions can vary quite a bit due to micro-climates. However, what is a desirable micro-climate in a temperate area, might not be desirable in a place with cold winters like Canada or much of the northern United States.

What grows best in a protected spot is different in cold and in temperate climates

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Weyerhaeuser Bonsais

While trying to sort a large number of pictures I took in previous years, I came upon photos of a collection of bonsais belonging to the Weyerhaeuser Corporation. That collection was then exhibited at the Weyerhaeuser Company Headquarters, near Tacoma in Washington state. It would appear that now it is to be found (or part of it is to be found) at the University of Arkansas.  It was a magnificent collection. Here are some of the pictures I took.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

La Pietra

A last Italian garden - Like the garden at the Villa Le Balze, this garden was built by a man who married a woman with a lot of money.

Arthur Acton was a British art collector and dealer who spent much of his life in Italy. His wife, Hortense, was the daughter of William Hamilton Mitchell, founder of the Illinois Trust and Savings Bank.

While the villa was built in the Renaissance, when the Actons bought it in 1907 it only had a park in the English style and a walled vegetable garden.

Arthur and his wife proceeded to create a magnificent Baroque Italian garden, which was preserved by their son Harold, who bequeathed it to the New York University in 1994.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Community Gardens in Florence - Orti dipinti

In Canada community gardens are usually what are called allotments in Britain.

The Orti dipinti are actually a series of teaching gardens.

They belong to the community and are staffed by volunteers, but the purpose is not to offer garden plots to the public. It is rather to teach about gardening, especially to school children and the people at an handicapped center next door.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

La Petraia

La Petraia is a 15th century villa associated with the Medici family. You can visit the building which was decorated with 19th century taste when the king of Italy, Vittorio Emanuele II, lived in the villa.

There are two gardens at La Petraia, a green park behind the villa and a formal garden with parterres in front of the villa.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Garden of the Vila Le Balze

Tradition has it that the word paradise comes from a Persian word meaning garden. Paradise is indeed what came to my mind when, last week, we visited this garden in Fiesole, outside Florence.

The fact that it was a very sunny, warm day, in the middle of January, might have influenced my judgment!

"Le balze" means the cliffs and the garden is on a sliver of land on a literal cliff overlooking the valley of the Arno and the city of Florence. It does not appear to be well known. None of the books on Tuscan gardens I checked mention it. Perhaps in part because it is difficult to photograph as the garden is narrow and relatively small.

The steep road takes you to this building surrounded by high walls topped by a loggia. All this gives you no hint of the garden.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Giardino Bardini

The Bardini Garden originated in the Renaissance, but it has evolved over the centuries. It only recently opened to the public, in 2005. From the main part of the city of Florence, when you look across the Arno (behind the houses in the photo below), you can see terraces on one of the hills. These terraces are part of the Bardini Garden on the south shore of the Arno.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Archeological Museum Garden

This Florentine garden is not very big, but it is beautiful. I have some merit in getting to see it, since in winter it only opens on Saturday mornings. I went a few Saturdays ago  and was told to come back on the next Saturday morning. The next Saturday I was back, but I was told they did not open that particular week-end. If there were not enough people or the weather did not cooperate, they did  not open!

 Well I was back there last Saturday morning. A different clerk was at the desk. I asked if I could see the garden, and he answered "Of course, I will call the guide".

Friday, January 8, 2016

The Stibbert garden

This Florence garden is a bit rundown. But, although it does not seem to have much of a maintenance budget, it is very attractive. The rundown look actually emphasizes its rather romantic appearance.

Frederick Stibbert (1838-1906) had an English father and a rich Italian mother. He was a great collector and made this garden just outside Florence with the help of Giuseppe Poggi.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Giardino dell'ortocolturale

Despite the name, for most of the year this is more of a park where you can take your dog for a run than a horticultural garden. The busy season is apparently spring when the garden takes on a new dimension.  At all times of the year, it is still rather elegant and offers some interesting features.


Saturday, January 2, 2016

Giardino della Gherardesca

Covering 4.5 hectares, this garden is one of the largest private gardens of Florence. Being private, it is not open to the public. Actually it is now part of the Four Seasons, a five star hotel. Still, we wrote to the hotel explaining that we knew the garden was not open to the public, but asked if they could make an exception. Their answer was that we were right, it was not open to the  public. However, if we could set a date, they would give us a time when we would be welcome!